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1NT opening with a singleton

The following is a reprint from The ACBL Club Managers Newsletter, May, 1998. Perhaps it will help to clarify this controversial issue. 

We are frequently questioned about the rights and wrongs of opening 1NT  or 2NT when the hand contains a singleton. Many players believe that such hands are outlawed. Not true!

Per the ACBL General Convention Chart, a no-trump opening or overcall is natural if not unbalanced (generally, no singleton or void and only one or two doubletons).

Players may use bridge judgment to determine that a 4-4-4-1 hand (that falls within the range noted on their convention card), for example, is a natural no-trump.

However, if a pair were to have an agreed method to determine and identify the singleton, such agreement would make the opening no-trump bid conventional and therefore illegal.

Opening other shaped hands that contain a singleton with a natural no-trump creates an impression that the player/partnership is using the no-trump bid to show high-card strength and not to indicate a balanced hand. Such an agreement would be deemed implicit and illegal.

A club has the right to restrict or permit conventional calls at its discretion. A natural no-trump opening is not a conventional call and, as such, may not be restricted.

An issue related to this discussion is the difference between a psych and a deviation. Any call that deliberately and grossly misstates either honor strength or suit length is by definition a psych. Such calls are legal unless they are excessive, random, or frivolous to the point that they disrupt the game.

 A deviation is a holding which is either within one card of promised length or within a queen of promised strength (defined by Don Oakie in the ACBL Bulletin, Feb., 1978). Deviations are not psychs. 

Furthermore, Law 75 states that "a player may violate an announced partnership agreement, so long as his partner is unaware of the violation." In other words, it's OK to make a non-conforming call if you fool your partner as well as the opponents. However, Law 75 goes on to say that that "habitual violations may create implicit agreements, which must be disclosed." 

Now all of the forgoing discussion concerned itself with the legalities of various non-conforming calls. Whether it's good bridge, however, is another question, and largely a matter of individual style. While most good players are willing to take the risk of misleading their partner when the situation calls for it, consistently lying to one's partner seems to undermine the whole purpose of establishing a system to begin with. But that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.--D.B.

Opening leads against no-trump

It's usually pretty easy to count out a hand when you're defending against a no-trump contract. Assume the middle of the opener's NT range (e.g., 16 points if his range is 15-17), then add dummy's points. Let's say dummy has 10 points. Therefore, the declaring side holds 26. Now add your points, and subtract that total from 40 to figure out what your partner holds. For example:

                 Declarer:  16 pts.
                 Dummy:    10 pts.
                 You:             9 pts.
                   Total:            35 pts.

Subtracting 35 from 40, you discover (unhappily) that your partner has only 5 points.*

Now you know how your partnership's strength is distributed. Here are some guidelines to help you decide which suit to lead:

  1. If the partnership's strength is fairly equally distributed, leading your best suit can work out quite well. Use standard leads that will communicate information about  your holding (top of sequence, top of interior sequence, 4th best, etc.).
  2. If you have the preponderance of the strength (as in above example), make a passive lead from a weak suit, unless you have a long suit with a solid sequence, such as KQJX or QJ10X. You won't be giving up anything, and you won't reveal your strength to declarer. Don't worry about fooling your partner--he probably won't get in anyway.
  3. If your partner has the preponderance of the strength and you have no entries, try to figure out partner's best suit, and lead it. If partner has been listening and counting as well as you, he'll know you don't have anything. Usually attack a major suit unless the bidding has indicated otherwise.

These ideas are paraphrased from The Fun Way to Advanced Bridge by Harry Lampert. Through the use of amusing cartoons, simple charts, and plain-speaking text, the author presents bridge concepts in a way that won't make you bleary-eyed by page 5. Among many other topics, he covers strip-and-end plays, squeezes, uppercuts, slam bidding, and a number of useful conventions. Included is a summary of The Fun Way to Serious Bridge for those who need a refresher. Highly recommended for developing players who want to cut to the chase.

*Lampert's book also covers sequences which start with a suit bid and end up in no-trump.


When to say "no" to "second hand low"

"Second hand low, although sound advice, is only a guideline...You should play second hand  high in order to:

  1. Take the setting trick.
  2. Obtain the lead (e.g., in order to give partner a ruff).
  3. Keep an opponent from winning a trick cheaply. For example, you have KQJx and declarer leads toward dummy's A10.
  4. Win a trick that might disappear if you don not take it now.
  5. Prevent declarer or dummy from winning a singleton honor.
  6. Cover an honor, hoping to prevent a card for your side.
  7. Preserve an entry to partner's hand (usually against no-trump)."

Marty Bergen presents the above defensive tip in his book Points Schmoints! Bergen's Winning Bridge Secrets.  Discover more indispensable strategies in this modern bridge classic.


The object of the game is get the Rocks to pass through the gates to the bottom. Each rock which makes it to the bottom will increase your score by one. Enter the rocks in the top green starting lanes by clicking in the green lane you wish to start with. You and the computer will take turns adding rocks to the board. If two or more rocks fall through to the bottom in a single turn, the player gets another turn. Change the values under the "My Search" heading the make the game more or less challenging. (I can win only at Level 1.)
You need Java to play this game


Support doubles and redoubles

"This very popular convention is used to distinguish between three-card and four-card raises of responder's suit:

                      West          North           East         South
                        1D            pass             1H             1S

Double above shows three-card heart support--it says nothing about spades. A raise to 2H shows four-card support.

When opener wants to penalize the overcaller, he must pass and hope that responder balances with a Competitive Double.

                       West           North           East          South
                         1C             pass             1S           double

Redouble shows three-card spade support , and the raise to 2S shows four-card support."

More than 120 conventions are concisely described in Conventions at a Glance  by Pamela Granovetter. A must-have reference for any serious bridge player!

Planning a suit contract

"When you count losers and can't find any way to make the contract, switch and count winners. Sometimes counting the other way helps you to see a line of play you missed. It is better to count winners in certain trump contracts: (1)when you have a solid or nearly-solid side suit, (2) when you have a pure cross-ruff and want to make your trumps separately; (3) when you're in a low-level contract."

This advice comes from Bridge Made Easy : How to Win More Tricks  by Caroline Sydnor. The author covers all aspects of declarer play in a format that's interesting and easy to understand. A terrific value for the developing player.

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